MEXICO: Ceremonies were held on January 23 to launch a tram-train service in the city of Puebla, approximately 100 km southeast of Mexico City. The inauguration celebrations were attended by President Enrique Peña Nieto, Puebla state Governor Rafael Moreno Valle and Secretary of Communications & Transportation Gerardo Ruiz Esparza.

Apart from two tourist trains in the north of the country and suburban services around Mexico City, the Puebla – Cholula line is the first commercial passenger service to be launched in Mexico since most passenger trains were abandoned in 1996.

Supported by the Mexican Government, Ministry of Communications & Transport and freight operators Ferrosur and Kansas City Southern, the 1·2bn peso project makes use of an existing Ferrosur freight railway alignment. This has required extensive refurbishment, as some segments had been out of use for several years.

The 17·4 km route connects the city centre with the Archeological Pyramid in Cholula, a popular tourist destination. A new terminus has been built adjacent to the former Puebla Main station, which in 1988 was transformed into the National Railway Museum. A station has also been built in Cholula, while three intermediate stops are to be added in the future.

To operate the service, Puebla has acquired two electro-diesel Citylink LRVs which had originally been built by Vossloh España for the aborted tram-train project in the Spanish city of León. Converted from 1 000 mm to 1 435 mm gauge, the vehicles are 39·6 m long and 2 550 mm wide, with capacity for up to 284 passengers. The vehicles never entered service in León and were sold to Puebla at the end of 2015.

The Puebla state government has franchised the operation to newly-formed Operadora Ferroviara de Mexico. Tevenue service starts on January 26; there will initially be seven trains each way between 08.00 and 20.00 on weekdays and nine pairs at weekends and on public holidays. Journey time is 40 min, with a maximum speed of 35 km/h.

With the line expected to carry both local residents and tourists, the government has implemented a graduated fare structure. Foreign tourists are charged 60 pesos each way, local tourists 30 pesos and residents just 13 pesos. Connections are provided with the city’s Ruta bus rapid transit network, while a new cycle path has been created alongside the railway alignment.